Summary: The businessmen in James 4 don’t seem to be boastful and proud to me... and yet God says they were. What makes a person proud?
OPEN: Dr. Seuss once wrote a poem entitled: “The Places You’ll Go”
And part of it goes like this:
“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”
APPLY: Like all of Dr. Seuss’ works, this is a cute poem.
It tells children that they have potential.
They have feet in their shoes that enable them to go places.
They have brains in their heads & they “know what they know”.
And thus, as time goes on, they’ll be able to decide what to do with their lives. Granted, they’ll need some guidance, but they can figure out a lot of it all on their own.
This is an uplifting and powerful message.
You have ability and talent. You can stand on your own 2 feet.
You can make your own decisions.
You’re not some mindless robot to be programmed.
You’re not an animal that can be trained to roll over and play dead.
You can think.
You can reason.
And you can come to your own conclusions.
I agree with all that.
And yet… when I first read the poem it made me uneasy.
I put in amongst my illustrations of how a person ought NOT to think. And I think what made me uneasy was that it’s terminology seemed eerily like what I’d read in James 4.
Look at what James tells the people of his day James 4:13-16…
“Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money."
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.”
These folks had brains in their heads
(they were businessmen who made money).
They had feet in their shoes
(they could travel to distant cities).
They had a direction they had chosen – they’d made decisions and planned ahead. And they made those decisions because “they knew what they knew” so THEY were the ones to decide what they’d do.
Now, this was a pretty good business plan.
They had everything figured out… (pause)
Or almost everything.
When were they going to set out to do their business? (“today or tomorrow” )
Where would they do it? (“this or that city” )
How long would they be gone? (“spend a year” )
What were they going to do? (“do business”)
Why? What was their objective? (“to make money” )
It was a decent business plan… but it left one thing out.
What had they left out? (God!)
God was nowhere in their plans.
And God wasn’t happy about this.
He condemned what they did as “evil” and “boastful”.
God implied that they were proud and arrogant men.
Now, as I was studying this text, something struck me as odd.
God condemns these men (in James 4) as proud and boastful, but it didn’t seem to me that what they were doing was all that proud or boastful. Wwhen I think of a proud/boastful person I visualize someone who goes around saying things like:
“Hey, look at me! I’m pretty good”